This is another entry in “The Mind of Dwayne Hoover”. If you’re wondering what that means, check out the introductory post for a full list of entries in this series. Enjoy!
A Graveyard for Lunatics by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, in high school I read a few of his books and a lot of his short stories, but it has been quite a while since I read anything by him. I was recently recommended some of his later work, so when I was at the library I found a book of his that I hadn’t read yet and had a go at it. A Graveyard for Lunatics follows a screenwriter who’s Halloween becomes eerily disrupted by the appearance of a dead body. This is only the beginning though, soon people are disappearing, and his friends, both current and former, find themselves in danger.
Our narrator and his friend Roy have always been fascinated by fear. When they were young it was monsters and scary movies that frightened them. They pursued that fear into movie-making careers, where their love of that thrill is the motivation behind all of their work. They are finally working on their dream project, a horror movie, but they need a monster that will live up to their memories of their childhood fear. Through an anonymous tip, the perfect monster for their horror flick is discovered in the flesh late at night hidden in the back corner of a Hollywood diner. Inspired, the two childhood friends work themselves into a creative frenzy recreating this monster.
They are not the only people on the lot at Maximus Films fascinated with fear. Someone else is causing fear and panic by dredging up memories of the late, great founder of the studio. Pretty soon the current studio heads are running scared, trying to control the efforts of the mystery manipulator while our narrator and his friend observe their panicked moves. The two of them are surprised when they unveil their beautiful, terrible creation only to find they have incited more fear in the studio heads with their creation. It results in both of them getting fired and Roy being run off the lot and into hiding.
Now the fear is focused on the narrator, and yet he thrives under these conditions, producing a screenplay that necessitates an overhaul of an entire movie in order to live up to his grand ending (he got rehired after the initial firing). This man’s inspiration is one of several reactions th the fear that is spreading through Maximus Films. The bigwigs lash out, becoming irritable and almost sinister, while, on the fringes of the story, an autograph seeker is paralyzed into inaction by his fear. Perhaps because of his childhood affinity for this thrill, the narrator provides some of his best work in this situation, gaining more and more information about who is rattling the cages of everyone at the studio.
The ending had some twists (some of them more obvious than others). Normally, I enjoy twists at the end but in this story I wasn’t really with them. I didn’t feel like they fit with what I had learned about the characters. That was my one complaint about this book. Some of my favorite writing of Bradbury’s is about the necessity and wonder of fear. Something Wicked This Way Comes approaches it from a child’s eye view and is my favorite novel by Bradbury. Also excellent are the short stories Pillar of Fire and Usher II which are both odes to Edgar Allen Poe, the master of literary fear. This book didn’t quite reach the level of my favorite Bradbury stuff, but it had enough good writing that it was certainly an enjoyable read.